Thursday night’s Community and Public Sector Union’s national dinner in Canberra coincided with the news that their members in Australian Border Force would strike for a full 24 hours on November 9. A press release explains the union’s “key workplace leaders” are discussing new ways to push the federal government to back down over its hard-line enterprise bargaining policy.
Assistant national secretary Michael Tull gave a teaser of a new campaign — “Proud to be Public” — to attract more support from the community, by telling human-interest stories of its members working in agencies like the Department of Human Services. Tull said the public were “sick of the cuts” just like CPSU members.
National secretary Nadine Flood spoke with certainty when she told her colleagues and comrades it was a fight they would win. It was time for an “old-fashioned stoush” because the government was only willing to make relatively minor changes to its bargaining framework, she said.
The new minister responsible for the public service, Michaelia Cash, has shown more willingness to communicate with union leaders than her predecessor, Eric Abetz. The bargaining policy has softened slightly but the agreements agencies are proposing would need far more than tweaks for members to accept them, “more like surgery to re-attach their limbs”, according to Flood.
In his element, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten received a standing ovation before and after his own address and managed to make his zingers zing a bit more than unusual. He told his faithful supporters the Turnbull government would have to make some major policy decisions sooner or later — mocking the triviality of naming the nation’s new icebreaker — and said that would see support for the government drop over the next 12 months as an election draws closer.
As for correctly pronouncing the name of his new federal parliamentary colleague, former ACT chief minister Katy Gallagher, there’s always next time.